Habits and identity

Why is it so easy to repeat bad habits but so difficult to acquire good habits? To keep good habits for more than a few days can be challenging but habits stay with us forever so it is better to keep the good habits than the bad.  Despite our best intentions, it can seem impossible to let go of unhealthy habits.

Changing our habits can be a challenge either because we try to change the wrong thing or we try to change a habit in the wrong way.

Many people start their habit changing process focussing on what they want to achieve and this leads to habits based on the result. The alternative is to create habits based on identity: who do we want to become. For instance, a smoker when offered a cigarette might say “no thanks I’m trying to give up” but a better response would be “no thanks I’m not a smoker”. This way you are reinforcing what you want to happen and this person ceased to identify themselves as someone who smokes.

Behind each system of actions there is a system of beliefs. A behaviour that is not in harmony with that identity will not last. To have more money might be your goal but if your identity is someone who spends more than they earn you will never achieve your goal.

Good habits can make sense rationally but we will not put them into practice if they conflict with our identity. The process of creating habits is the process by which we become ourselves. We change little by little, day by day, habit by habit.

Ask yourself these questions. How can you transform the way you see yourself? What do you understand about your negative habits? What do you want to change into positive habits?